Dhaka worried BDR ammunition could reach militants in India

Dhaka, April 28 (Inditop) A former chief of the Bangladesh Rifle (BDR) has said the ammunition and explosives that went missing during the troopers’ mutiny could have been smuggled to militant groups in northeastern India, fuelling Dhaka’s worries.

“The missing weapons could reach the hands of terrorists and other criminals, and could even be smuggled into neighbouring countries’ separatists like the United Liberation Front of Assam,” Lt. Gen. (retd) Atiqur Rahman, a former BDR chief, told the Daily Star newspaper.

India has alleged that militants in India’ northeast use Bangladeshi soil to stage armed operations, an allegation that Dhaka has consistently denied.

Faruq Khan, a minister in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government, said mostly small arms had gone missing.

The minister, a retired army colonel who is coordinating the government’s effort to probe the mutiny and related developments, however, did not give details of what all had gone missing, the report said.

Eighty-one people, including 55 Bangladesh Army officers on deputation to the BDR, were killed during the Feb 25-26 mutiny. The troopers revolted over low wages and poor working conditions.

Quoting officials, the newspaper said the mutineers not only looted firearms, ammunition and explosives from the armouries at the BDR headquarters in the outskirts of the national capital, but also destroyed many of the ledger books making it difficult for investigators to make an estimate of missing weapons.

“The BDR authorities, and intelligence and other law-enforcing agencies are worried about the missing weapons, mainly about the grenades, as those might fall in the hands of terrorists and other criminals causing threats to the country’s security,” the report said.

BDR sources said the mutineers broke into all armouries of all sectors, battalions, and other units, and looted indiscriminately.

BDR Director General Maj Gen Md Mainul Islam said: “We’re trying to estimate how many arms and ammunition are missing, with back-up information from different sources, and we are hopeful we will be able to complete the estimation soon.”

But former BDR chief Rahman said: “It’s impossible to know the exact figure, one could only imagine a figure.”

Talking to The Daily Star, both the incumbent and the former BDR chiefs feared that the missing weapons might end up becoming a national security concern, which was echoed by intelligence and other law-enforcing agencies.

Indian insurgent groups have been known to receive explosives and ammunition from Bangladesh sources, Indian authorities have alleged.